Bald Eagle Photo Tour

An American icon. Thousands of them. Bring Your Camera. Or Two.


  • Accommodation in Haines, Alaska
  • All ground transportation
  • 7 days, 6 nights
  • Bald eagle and landscape photography
  • Small, customized photo group; 4 people max
  • Flexible itinerary
  • Photography instruction and image review/critique

The November gathering of bald eagles along the Chilkat River outside Haines, Alaska is world famous. As many as 3000 bald eagles at a time might congregate along the river feeding on the rich salmon run before the coming winter freezes the river over.

Join this small, private photo tour and workshop combination, designed to meet your interests. A trip for anyone whose interests might be either learning about wildlife photography basics or just maximizing your photography opportunities in the incredible setting of the Chilkat Eagle Preserve.

Or both.

Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve

The Chilkat Eagle Preserve is world famous for the incredible bald eagle gathering there in late fall. The bald eagles congregate here to feast on the incredible late run of Chum Salmon that make their way up river to spawn.

Depending on the year the eagle count here in November has been as high as 3000 and more eagles. It’s a phenomenal natural spectacle to see so many eagles soaring, diving, fighting and competing for food.

The trip is designed to appeal to either beginners and intermediate photographers looking to learn about technical wildlife photography concerns, such as exposure and focus and flight photography. I also try to accommodate more advanced photographers, those comfortable with their skillset and technical understanding who are looking for a great opportunity to produce a great portfolio of bald eagle photos.

Most of the photo tours I run aren’t workshops, but this trip is a little different. While in the field, we’ll look at ways to improve what we do, to better understand the technicals of wildlife photography.

We’ll also have plenty of time when we return from shooting to review our images and look for ways to improve our photos.

Questions?

Email me or call me if you have any questions.

Photo Tour Location

The Chilkat Eagle Preserve was officially designated in 1982 with the specific goal to “protect and perpetuate the world’s largest concentration of Bald Eagles and their critical habitat”. Over 48 000 acres of land, mostly river bottom land along the Chilkat, Kleheni, and Tsirku Rivers has been put aside to help preserve this incredible gathering.

A combination of mostly Cottonwood trees and mighty Sitka Spruce provide great habitat, and the backdrop of that massive St. Elias Range mountains is about impossible to beat.

Bald Eagles

The American Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, feeds mostly on fish, although they do scavenge meat of any kind. With a wing span as great as 7′ across, they’re a photogenic bird in full flight. Those enormous wings spread wide as they soar against the snow-capped mountains in the background.

There are between 200 and 400 resident eagles “year round” in the Chilkat river area and the fall gathering increases the population number drastically. Sometimes as high as 3000 bald eagles can be found here. Tall cottonwood trees can appear to be almost weighed down with eagles perched so densely on their branches.

Bald Eagle Photography

They’ll often fly by at speeds as high as 30mph and, when diving can even hit 100mph. A good auto focus system and a fast lens can be a big help to photograph these birds. With some practice you’ll improve your flight shooting dramatically. We also focus on timing, capturing a specific moment or piece of action; takeoffs, landings, etc.

Bald eagles LOVE to fight. From observation, they love to fight almost as much as they love to eat. A friend of mine joked that bald eagles appear to prefer to fight for a salmon than catch their own, and he may well be right! This can make for some dramatic photography, as 2, or more, bald eagles clash in mid-air, or tangle on the ground. A bird on the ground with a salmon is vulnerable to aerial attacks, and it’s an incredible experience to watch and photograph these birds fighting over a meal.

We’ll aim to shoot a diverse selection of images. Portraits and closeup shots of perched eagles, eagles calling, flying, diving and fighting over fish, wider landscape-style images showing the habitat and surrounding environs, and all the action we can see.

Bald Eagles Fishing. Flying. Feeding. Fighting.

The action is always a thrill. Bald eagles gather in large numbers every fall for the last great supper before they head south over the winter.  The annual count varies, but numbers as high as 3500 bald eagles along the river are not uncommon.

The eagles spend almost as much time fighting as they do feeding. It’s fascinating behavior to observe, and can make for some dynamic photo opportunities.

There’s not much activity you won’t get to see and photograph on this tour.

Our small personalized photography workshop and tour puts you and your photography in the right place. At the right time.

Upon your arrival in Haines, Alaska, we’ll pick you up, and take care of just about everything from there (meals not included). Transport. Accommodations. Instruction.

You and your camera do the rest.

Well, you and your camera and the eagles do the rest.

Photo Workshop

I’ve photographed bald eagles for over 10 years. I offer my years of experience in shooting and watching the great birds to help improve your photography. I’ve shot bald eagles in a variety of different locations and circumstances and have loads of experience trying to get into the best possible position to maximize the photography opportunities. We’ll discuss those things and more. If you’d like we can carefully review your images after shooting and discuss what might work to strengthen and improve our photography.

Bald eagle photography workshop Bald eagle landing near a salmon, Chilkat River, Alaska.

Testimonial

“I’m just back from the bald eagles november photo trip with Carl and it was amazing. Thousands of eagles right here, posing for the camera, in the charming and quiet town of Haines. Carl was a wonderful guide and photography teacher. I learnt a lot about eagles, Alaska, and photography, notably improving my skills and knowledge of my instruments. I highly recommend the tour.”

— Julien F. NYC. Read more testimonials here ->

Photography Workshop or Tour?

Most of the photo trips I run are photo tours, not photo workshops. The emphasis is on putting you in the right place at the right time, and organizing a productive, safe and rewarding photography tour for you.

This trip is a little more instructional and so I advertise it as a workshop.

The primary things I focus on with novice to intermediate photographers are

i) learn how to shoot in manual exposure mode
ii) know your various AF modes
iii) know how to find, read and interpret your RGB histogram
iv) practice trying to anticipate behavior and compositions. Learn to see what is NOT in front of you.
v) Enjoy yourself.

The more work you can do on these things BEFORE your trip, the stronger your photography will be for your trip. So do your practice, and do your homework.

Obviously if you have specific photography related questions, we’ll go though some of those as well.

For those folks who are interested, we’ll go over basics of bald eagle photography; exposure and shutter speed, flight photography, picking your subject, picking your window, etc. We’ll look at the basics of in-the-field wildlife photography such as anticipating the action, being in the best spot you can to shoot, and knowing your subject.

We’ll also look at metering mode choices, reading and understanding your histograms. Whether you’re a beginner with wildlife photography, or an intermediate – advanced photographer looking for a well organized tour to maximize your field opportunities I’ll do my best to accommodate you.

Trip Details

Instruction

For those folks who are interested, we’ll go over basics of bald eagle photography; exposure and shutter speed, flight photography, picking your subject, picking your window, etc. We’ll look at the basics of in-the-field wildlife photography such as anticipating the action, being in the best spot you can to shoot, and knowing your subject.

We’ll also look at metering mode choices, reading and understanding your histograms. Whether you’re a beginner with wildlife photography, or an intermediate – advanced photographer looking for a well organized tour to maximize your field opportunities I’ll do my best to accommodate you.

Carl

As the photo tour leader, I bring a wealth of backcountry and photography experience to this tour. I’ve photographed Alaska’s bald eagles intensively for well over 10 years now, across much of the state, and have sound experience with eagles and bald eagle behavior, which can make all the difference for photography. bald eagle photo tours guide Expeditions Alaska guide and owner Carl Donohue hiking near Nabesna.

I’ve taught for a long time, in one on one situations as well as class room situations, and my experience in instruction will hopefully be of some value to folks on this trip I’m offering this trip as either a photo tour, or a workshop for folks looking to learn a little more about wildlife photography.

Provided

Your own room, with modern accommodations and amenities.

Transport in and around Haines, up the Chilkat River to the preserve in a comfortable All Wheel Drive conversion van.

Experienced, licensed and permitted guide.

Photography instruction and in the field photography advice.

Photo processing instruction if desired, and image review and critique available.

Safety provisions include satellite phone, first aid kits, emergency travel equipment.

 

Not Included

Meals.

Trip insurance (recommended).

Gratuities.

Transport to/from Haines.

Bring Along

You’ll want to bring your enthusiasm, your love of wilderness, adventure and good times, and a sense of wonder. Your camera gear, and clothing for a week. Good raingear and warm clothing is essential in Alaska at any time of year. You’ll want to be in decent shape for any short hiking with your camera gear.

Alaska Business

I’ll stress again the benefit of heading out with an Alaskan company. You simply can’t beat local experience when it comes to nature photography, and particularly wildlife photography. What you get here is an Alaskan guide working together to offer you the best in bald eagle photography.

Trip Itinerary

Flexibility matters when it comes to productive photography. In order to optimize your photo opportunities, we need to be fluid with out schedule. Adapting to changing conditions and situations is more effective than rigidly outlining and sticking to some preconceived plan.

So, with that caveat out of the way

Day 0 – Arrive in Juneau, AK, overnight there (not included).

Fun Fact.

Haines, Alaska is home to America’s first museum solely dedicated to hammers. Visitors to the Hammer Museum can view their fascinating collections of hammer sculptures, handle-making machinery, and spring-loaded meat tenderizers.

Cool, eh?

Trip FAQs

  • With any wildlife photography, more is better. Sure, sometimes you can make an astonishing photograph with your wide angle lens. In fact, I love that kind of wildlife photography. But in general, longer will beat shorter.

    My camera setup for Haines includes two bodies (one FX and one DX body), and a 500mm lens. I also shoot a lot with my 80-400mm lens. But the 500mm, with a TC sometimes, is the bread and butter. My advice is you want at least a 300mm lens.

  • Most of my wildlife photography tours tend to be subject specific. This tour is all about the eagles. There are a some other wildlife species around. We’ve seen moose, coyotes, fox, mink, weasel, even bears.

    Bird life can be the best bet. You’ll see and photograph black-billed magpies, raven, American dipper. Gulls are abundant, including Glaucous-winged, herring and Bonaparte gulls. Downy and hairy woodpecker are typically around. Trumpeter swans are common, and duck species include mallards, teals and wigeon. Occasionally we even see loons on a fly-by!

    It’s my opinion that wildlife photography is more productive and rewarding when we focus on single species. Should you wish, the opportunity arise to reasonably photograph other species is more than likely.

  • Upon your reservation I’ll include a detailed trip packet with information about your camera gear requirements. For now, it’s safe to say you want long, fast lenses, solid autofocus, a sturdy tripod and plenty of memory cards.

  • Cold coastal weather means heavy, insulate clothing. Upon your reservation I’ll forward you a comprehensive clothing list. Feel free to download the Trip Info eBook here if you’re looking for more information at the moment.

    Although it’s not the arctic, wind and cold can be a challenge. you want arctic wear clothing. Big, burly pac-boots, a thick down or similar parka, hats and gloves, and so on. The temperatures will likely dip down around the freezing range, or below, but there’s no need to be uncomfortable if well-dressed.

  • Coastal Alaska in November/early December. Temperatures should hover around freezing, hopefully just below.

    Colder is better. We want snow, not rain.

    Winds can be adversarial down the valley.

  • Wireless internet is available at the hotel; there are also hot spots in town you can purchase an account through. Cell service works for most major providers.

  • Each guest gets their own room. There is no single supplement.

    If you would like to share a room with your partner let me know and we’ll discount your rate accordingly.

  • I know you do. As well you should.

    I recommend starting with the General Trip FAQ page

    More questions? Email me or call me  if you like.

    Upon your reservation I’ll send out a comprehensive trip information packet that covers just about everything and more you might imagine about your trip.

You May Also Like
Expeditions Alaska
Visit the wild